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22 декабря 2010 года. 
Sens' Gonchar a defensive bust, among worst in NHL at minus-19 // The Montreal Gazette


Sergei Gonchar emerged from the Ottawa Senators dressing room almost an hour after Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, the strain of a dreadful start to his career with the Senators written all over his face.

The Senators' prized summer free-agent acquisition was expected to put a spark into the Senators' power play and all-around offensive game. Instead, he ranks 26th among NHL defencemen in scoring, with four goals and 12 assists in 35 games.

More glaring, however, are his defensive mistakes, including an inexcusable gaffe early in the second period Sunday which helped the Capitals change the momentum from an early 2-0 deficit. Gonchar is now minus-19, ranking him 753rd among 756 NHL players.

"It's not easy, coming in to a new team," he said, his eyes a touch red. "You have high expectations and you hope with a new addition, the team is going to be better. Obviously, we're not playing as well as we expect to, so yeah, I'm probably putting pressure on myself that I normally wouldn't. I'm squeezing my stick probably a little harder than I should. It's one of those things you have to deal with, but there's no excuse for it. I have to be better."

Gonchar, 36, says he has never experienced a slump of this duration during his 16-year NHL career. The plays that once seemed so simple and led to success when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins aren't working anymore. He's a step slower than he used to be. He's out of sync with his new teammates. The end result: frustration piled on top of disappointment.

"I'm part of the group, so I cannot have an excuse and say: 'I've done those things (before) and they're not working for me.' I have to make adjustments and I have to get that sense, that feeling and chemistry, and be on the same page as the guys. I'm one of them and it doesn't really matter now if things were different for me in Pittsburgh and they worked for me. I have to make adjustments. I have to change my game."

It was supposed to be so different. Back on July 1, a confident Senators general manager Bryan Murray signed Gonchar to a three-year, $16.5-million U.S. contract, banking that the change to the offensive-minded Gonchar from the rugged defensive-minded Anton Volchenkov would make the club more successful. Volchenkov signed with the New Jersey Devils.

Gonchar's track record is that of a power-play point-producing machine. Working with fellow veterans Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev, along with sophomore Erik Karlsson, the expectation was for magic with the man advantage. When Gonchar's play in his own end was questioned, head coach Cory Clouston suggested Gonchar's defensive play was "underrated."

Now, three months into the season, that dream scenario has become a nightmare of sorts.

Gonchar has been a major part of a Senators squad that has gone 14-17-4, the hopes of a playoff spot fading away with each defeat. The future of Murray and Clouston hang in the balance.

The Senators can't find that elusive "identity" organizations seek to create. They can't rebound when they're behind late in games. Increasingly, they can't put teams away when they hold leads.

Gonchar can only hope he has hit rock bottom and that the future will be brighter for both him and the team. He still has two and a half seasons left on his contract and he says the key now is to try to block out all the negativity and "keep believing" in the system.

"You have to make sure you are doing things over and over," he said. "You might get frustrated and start doing things differently. When you're going through those things, you have to stick with that system. You have to believe in each other. You have to help each other and look ahead. You have to focus on the next game."

That next contest comes tomorrow against the Nashville Predators, a team whose identity is all about playing an air-tight defensive game, capitalizing on whatever mistakes opponents give them.

Страничка Сергея Гончара на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"

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